Eugene Peterson, in his book Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work (which was originally published in 1980), writes: “America does not honor the quiet work that develops spiritual root systems and community stability.”
One sentence. That’s all it is. Yet for me it was flooded with meaning. I’ve always felt myself to be outside of time. I’ve never grasped fashion (NEVER – you can ask my sisters) or been able to keep up with what’s cool, hip, or current. In that predicament, I felt I didn’t belong amongst my peers. And in fact, friends were a rare jewel throughout many of my childhood years.
At the same time, I look back over my life and see the slow development in small, local Churches of Christ, learning Bible verses by heart, studying Biblical and early church history, and thoroughly taking faith into myself. I see my soul woven into other souls – not mostly of my peers but of those both older and younger than me.
It was my parents’ choices that kept me grounded in theology and tethered to church community. It was slow — very slow. And steady: Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, Wednesday evenings, every week, for decades. And though we lived in many places, my parents certainly weren’t church hoppers.
Later it was my own unconscious choices that rooted me. I think of how we got married young (so young!) and started volunteering in youth ministry right away. I think of years and years of working side by side in the local church, serving the people right in front of us. And we stayed in those small places. Even when it got hard — and it DID get hard — we stayed.
In some ways ministry has blossomed for me in the past few years, seemingly out of nowhere. But it’s not out of nowhere. It’s the fruit of working in small, local churches for many years, developing a love for people, for “small” ministry, and for the local church, which I believe is the very heartbeat of God.
All this was quiet work, silent work, unseen work, and yet it’s beginning to yield a harvest in my life. I’m beginning to understand how God uses small ministry to prepare His people for a little bit bigger ministry. And I’m beginning to see that if it’s God who roots and grounds us, we can still love, embrace, and be satisfied by that small ministry.
I may be unable to keep current, and America may only honor currentness, but in my square-peg-in-a-round-world life, I see something richer and deeper and more meaningful than fads and fitting in. I see that being out of time, in cooperation with God who is also out of time, and in friendship with His people, isn’t so very obsolete after all.
Further resources on these ideas: